Last week I had the chance to talk with the author of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond, Becky Eanes. Becky is a mom of two young kids who faces the same issues as so many parents striving for positive discipline. I loved being able to chat with her about raising her two boys and her new eBook!
Hi Becky! First, will you give everyone a little bit of background on your family & your parenting journey?
My husband and I met in high school and began dating my senior year. We married 6 years later and just celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary. We had our first son when I was 28, and when he was a year old I made the decision to quit my banking career and work from home as a medical transcriptionist. We welcomed a second son 2 years later…Adding a second child proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated. The pregnancy was emotionally challenging for me, and my first son had a hard time adjusting to the new baby.
That sounds so common for young children with the arrival of a new sibling. What was it like for him?
For the first couple of days, he thought the baby was cute, but that quickly turned to, “Take him back,” and eventually he completely ignored his existence for several months. He began to do things such as bang his head off couches or walls when upset. I was an emotional wreck during that time and he picked up on that and it really affected him on top of his own emotions.
What helped turn things around during this time?
I realized an old truth, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” My mood affects us all. I set the atmosphere in my home. I also discovered that my oldest son is a highly sensitive child (HSC), and he is very in tune with the emotions of those around him.
I realized something I wish I’d known all along: parenting is not so much about “How do I raise great kids?” as it’s about “How do I make myself great for them?” Nothing brings out greatness like happiness. When I’m happy, I’m positive, and I’m at peace. What helped turn things around was just time and a lot of love for all of us.
Through the challenges, I was still overwhelmed with joy at having these 2 beautiful souls. Now, my boys are 5 and 3. My 5 year old is witty, sensitive, and a social butterfly. My 3 year old is affectionate, imaginative, and loves to make us laugh.
What was your introduction into positive parenting?
After my second son was born, my first started acting out in ways he’d never done before. I knew innately that spanking was not an option for me, but I was still of the mindset that I needed to figure out how to control him before he got “out of control.” So, I began searching for more gentle methods of control, really.
One of the first things recommended to me was 1-2-3 Magic. Marketed under “positive parenting” I read the book and tried this method. I would count to 3 for inappropriate behavior, and if I got to 3, he would go to his room to “think about it.” And guess what? It worked…until it didn’t anymore. Then we were in constant power struggles and it didn’t feel quite so positive.
My search led me to TEACH Through Love and AhaParenting, and that was really when my paradigm shift occurred. I realized that all I was really doing was a fluffier version of the authoritarian approach, trying to control them nicely, but with fear-based tactics. I let go of punishments and coercion and focused on our relationship and on teaching and things improved 100%. I wanted to share this with every parent I could reach!
You started a blog, Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond, which has become very successful…tell us about that.
I started the Facebook page first because I was looking for answers…not because I had them. 🙂 The blog came a bit later, after I’d made my paradigm shift and felt I’d learned enough to share in writing what I have become so passionate about: helping parents learn that there is another way to bring up our kids, one that connects us rather than puts us at odds.
It turns out a lot of other people were looking for answers, and it has been a wonderful journey and a real honor to help support these families. I’m just a mama on a journey, sharing what I’ve learned and what I continue to learn.
How do most parents respond when you tell them relationship is more important than strategy in discipline?
Parents are often skeptical (as was I at first). You feel like it can’t possibly be that simple. Decades of child-rearing advice passed down from generation to generation didn’t mention anything about relationship! Of course tools and strategies have their place, but the relationship is the golden prize.
Will you share an example of a behavior challenge you worked through with your boys?
My youngest went through a hitting phase at about 2 ½. He would hit multiple times per day, every single time he was frustrated. I tried tools such as our calm down spot where we’d go and read or do a sensory activity until he was regulated, or we’d do a time-in, usually holding him on my lap and rocking him to calm him down.
Knowing what I know now, I knew two things were happening. 1) His brain wasn’t developed enough to be able to control his impulses, and 2) there was a reason behind the behavior I had to figure out.
Finally I realized the root of it was jealousy of his older brother. Although we felt like we gave them equal attention, my older son is very outgoing and talkative and just tends to dominate conversations because he is much more verbal. When I really paid attention from my little one’s point of view, I could see how he would feel he wasn’t getting the same amount of attention from us, as he is more reserved and would take a back seat and let my older have center stage.
So, while I continued addressing the hitting with limit setting and helping him to regulate, my husband and I really worked on letting him know he was an equal part of the family. We would purposefully include him in conversations with, “What do you think?” or “Which is your favorite?” The change was drastic and immediate once we addressed the reason behind the behavior.
You have a new eBook out called, “Positive Parenting in Action.” What made you and your co-author, Laura Ling, decide to write it?
I was hearing the same thing from so many parents that I had wondered myself: “This sounds peachy, but how do I do this? How do I get them do something without threatening a consequence? How do I get him to understand he can’t hit if I don’t punish him?” I wanted to give them something practical to work with. Laura was amazing and worked tirelessly on this eBook with me to make it something that anybody could pick up, read quickly, and grasp a new understanding of the “how to”s as it relates to love-based parenting.
Do you have a favorite positive parenting mantra?
When days are tough and I’m worn down or the kids are arguing a lot, I think of that quote by Dorothy Evslin: “It will be gone before you know it. The fingerprints on the wall appear higher and higher, then suddenly they disappear.”